Version 2.0 May 2015
Summary: WFD Characterisation Approach (May 2015)
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Characterisation of water bodies is a critical element of the work required under the Water Framework Directive. It sets the scene for where the water resources are and how they function in the landscape, and provides the understanding of how they are impacted by the pressures caused by human activities. The outcome of characterisation is the identification of water bodies at risk of not meeting their WFD objectives. Article 5 of the WFD, supported by Annex II which contains some of the required detail,
identifies three components in the characterisation of water bodies:
(a) an analysis of its physical characteristics, i.e., the physical information that describes the water
bodies including water body boundaries, typologies, reference conditions, the geology and
hydrogeology of groundwater bodies including the nature of the overlying strata, linked
groundwater and surface water systems, etc.
(b) a review of the impact of human activity on the status of surface waters and groundwater, and
(c) an economic analysis of water use.
Programmes of measures are implemented in those water bodies identified as being at risk, and monitoring programmes are designed to assess whether the measures are effective. The characterisation process is therefore a major driver in designing appropriate monitoring networks and implementing measures. Measures have to be cost effective so the economic analyses, as well as other factors such as the beneficial uses of the water resources, help to prioritise the measures. The effectiveness of the measures is checked using the monitoring data, incorporating various metrics such as status, trends and capacity1
assessments, which are then fed back into the next characterisation cycle. This document provides a summary of the process.